I am handing the reins over today to a writer who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons that you’ll understand. In the wake of the Steubenville verdict, a lot has been said about rape culture in the US. In this post, you’ll find an extremely candid discussion of how rape is not isolated to one particular demographic of society. Even the most “upstanding” men can be rapists. – Emily
I want to share a story with you. I’m going to do so anonymously, because the story involves details that can not be made known in our circle and can not be attached to mine or my husband’s name. But the story has to be told.
My husband used to have a best friend. They were frat brothers, but beyond that, they were very, very close…like real brothers. Somehow they survived undergrad, grad school, career changes, financial struggles, being roommates, multiple heartaches, and several moves…all with their friendship intact.
Over time my husband’s former BFF watched my husband marry, start a family, and progress in his career – all the while envious of his success. To our knowledge all he’d ever wanted was a family of his own.
My husband and his former friend both work for the government, they’re both Southern Gentlemen, and by society’s standards, they’re both “catches”. So when my husband’s friend bought his first house with four bedrooms and no children to fill it, our hearts hurt for him. We looked at him and we really hoped that one day he’d find a wonderful woman to love and share a life and family with.
But a few years ago, after the demise of one of his relationships, our eyes were opened to who this man really was…and how alive and well rape culture IS.
My husband and his friend shared drinks and video games the weekend proceeding his recent breakup. And after the drinks had softened their brains just a bit, the video game controllers were set down, and the walls were lowered, and thus began the end of their friendship.
His former friend began sharing with him the events of the night of he and his ex’s breakup. My husband listened with a compassionate and open ear, ready to take his BFF’s side. He told him, “She was insecure.”, “She had Daddy issues.”, “We fought all the time.”, “She never trusted me.” He went on and on and on like this.
But as the alcohol took a firmer hold, he spilled details that have haunted my husband since.
On the night of their breakup, they were taking part in some heavy petting in her car. They’d just seen a movie and had dinner. And they couldn’t wait to make it back to his house. They’d entered into a physical relationship very early, but to our knowledge, they seemed to really enjoy each other’s company, beyond the physical attraction.
As they petted, and rocked the vehicle, just moments before intercourse, she whispered, “No. Stop.” My husband’s former BFF was taken aback by her request. They’d gone “all the way” so many times before, so he assumed it was because they were in a car. But, she corrected him. She told him she felt like this was “all” they did. She felt like their relationship was only a physical one. And she wanted to know that she was more to him than just her body.
The words that came from his lips next were what killed their friendship. With pleading eyes, he looked into my husband’s, and he said, “I mean…it was right there. I was already throbbing. I was ready to go, I had the condom on, and then she just f*ing stopped it. You can’t just stop something like that. That sh*t’s unforgivable.”
My husband’s mouth dropped open. My husband – father to a daughter, older brother to a younger sister, son to a mother, my lover and best friend – his mouth dropped open and he sat speechless. He swallowed hard and asked him what he did next.
And his friend admitted to him…
…he forced himself upon her. He made every excuse in the world for it. He didn’t say “rape” because he didn’t see it as rape. He saw it as an injustice that she denied him and his right. He said she protested at first, but she just needed to be warmed up. He made gross and disgusting observations about her body language that “assured” him she really DID want it, even though she said “No.”
After he was finished, she screamed at him, and left him in the parking lot (they’d taken her car to the movies). And that was the end of their relationship. And somehow…this was all her fault.
My husband excused himself to the bathroom, gathered his composure, and left his former friend’s house, citing he needed to get home immediately. He came home, fell into my arms, and he wept at the monster this man was. He wept that he’d known him for over ten years and never known he was capable of such behavior. In the weeks following my husband confronted him about it and thus ended their friendship. We don’t know what happened to this young woman. But, we do know charges were obviously never brought against him. For to this day he’s single, working his fantastic government job, living in his beautiful suburban house, driving his brand new car, and all the mothers want him to marry their daughter…
and he’s a rapist.
Rape culture isn’t JUST about the act itself. It starts with someone believing that they are owed the sexuality of another. Somewhere down the line somebody taught my husband’s former BFF that it was okay to see women as a vagina to be conquered. Someone, or maybe lots of someones, taught him that he is owed sex from another, simply because he was born with a penis. The phrase “blue balls” is thrown around as a legitimate medical condition, guilting women into taking part in sexual activities they may not really want to take part in. And if they don’t submit, they’re titled a “cock-tease” and, ironically, a “whore” for not putting out.
Rape culture is born when the fathers of sons don’t teach their sons that sex is NOT their birthright. It’s perpetuated by television shows with male casts that redeem sleezy sex fiends, but condemn the women they seduce. (Barney from How I Met Your Mother, for example). Rape culture is sewn into the hearts of young men who ogle at young women freely, citing their wardrobe as the reason for it, and they wouldn’t dress that way if they didn’t “want it”.
Rape culture isn’t JUST about the act itself. It’s about a society that continues to encourage a bullying approach towards sexuality. My husband’s former BFF wasn’t born a rapist. Being born a man didn’t make him one. But, he became one. And it didn’t have to be that way. But it will be that way. It will be that way for other young men, who become grown men, because too few are stepping up and saying, “ENOUGH.”
I have a daughter. At night my husband tucks her into bed, and we have to accept the possibility that she could begin dating a man like his former BFF and this could happen to her as well. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Because not all rapists hide in back alleys, and drive creepy, old minivans. Plenty of them are your next door neighbor, and the cute guy in the cubicle next to you.
Today’s rapist is just your Average Joe. And THAT’S the reason why rape culture is alive and well.
This is a true story, and one my husband and I will carry with us for many years. We’ll hear it every time our daughter goes on a date. We’ll remember it every time she tells us she’s met someone wonderful. We’ll try to trust him, but we won’t. Because we trusted someone once…and we were wrong to.